Streamline your Affinity workflow with personalised keyboard shortcuts

Suggestions on how to customise your Affinity keyboard shortcuts to help you work more efficiently.

Customisable keyboard shortcuts are a flexible and instant way to ensure your most-used Affinity features are always at your fingertips. With help from our team of Affinity product experts, we’ve assembled suggested custom shortcuts that can make your workflow smoother.

We are not suggesting that you implement every shortcut mentioned below, or even that you should use our key combinations. Only implement those you anticipate will deliver a tangible benefit to your workflow, and try whatever key combos make the most sense to you.

Your Affinity app will warn of duplicate assignments in itself, though you will need to think about system-wide shortcuts that might conflict. All suggestions in this article have been tested on clean installations of macOS and Windows.

A whirlwind guide to setting up shortcuts

Open an Affinity desktop app’s preferences, and then click Keyboard Shortcuts. At the top left, select a Persona from the upper pop-up menu, and then a menu or feature category (such as Tools) from the lower one.

Below, find the feature you want to have a shortcut, click in the box to its right, and then press the key(s) you want to use.

Keyboard shortcuts can be assigned to main menu items, panel visibility, and even some context toolbar options.

A shortcut can be a character key on its own, or also require holding one or more modifier keys: ctrl, alt (Win), shift, opt, and cmd (Mac).

Fine-tune your tool shortcuts

Certain letter keys cycle through related tools, but are they the tools you need?

If you design comics in Affinity Designer or Affinity Publisher, you might add the two callout shapes to the M key.

Conversely, if you rarely create tables in Affinity Publisher, consider removing the default T key assignment from the Table Tool so that the key cycles between only the Artistic Text Tool and the Frame Text Tool.

Truly instant multi-object selection

Affinity 1.9 introduced Select Same and Select Object, enabling ‘instant’ selection of multiple objects that share a common attribute. That is, instant once you’ve selected the attribute two levels deep in a menu.

Rather than assigning shortcuts to all Select Same and Select Object items, consider whether there’s a small subset you tend to put into action.

Our Affinity Designer product expert, Matt Searston, recommends assigning shortcuts to only the attributes you use a lot. In the app’s Keyboard shortcuts preferences, choose Select from the lower pop-up menu and try these:

  • Ctrl+Shift+1 for Select Same > Fill Colour
  • Ctrl+Shift+2 for Select Same > Stroke Colour
  • Ctrl+Shift+3 for Select Same > Shape

To learn more about Select Same and Select Object, read this earlier article.

Manipulate curves more easily

It’s not just menu commands that can be given shortcuts. Some important context toolbar items can be, too. Matt explains:

“I also have Break Curve and Join Curve set up… [It is] really handy when you’re knee-deep in a vector illustration and you need to quickly break and join sections, or if you’re using a graphics tablet and you want to avoid having to go over to the context toolbar to make those changes.”

Certain context toolbar items can be given keyboard shortcuts.

In Keyboard shortcuts preferences, select Pen Tool from the lower pop-up menu, and then assign and try out these shortcuts:

  • Ctrl+Shift+Q for Break Curve
  • Ctrl+Shift+W for Join Curve

Set them for the Node Tool, too.

Matt also recommends setting shortcuts for operations you select often in Layer > Geometry (or on the Toolbar).

Create special layer types

In Affinity Photo, there are many different layer types, some of which are key to achieving popular visual effects. Like our product expert, James Ritson, you might choose to set Shift+F to invoke Layer > New Fill Layer.

To avoid having to open the Layer menu, set similar shortcuts for any layer types you create regularly. Consider it for adjustment layers, too.

For New Adjustment Layer > Selective Colour, try:

  • (Mac) Option+S
  • (Win) Alt+Shift+S

For New Adjustment Layer > Exposure:

  • (Mac) Option+E
  • (Win) Alt+Shift+E

Speedily adjust snapping behaviour

On a large desktop, moving the pointer to the Toolbar to adjust the snapping behaviour can get tiresome.

Moving the pointer to toolbar items on a large, very high-res display quickly gets tiresome. It’s also unnecessary.

In Keyboard shortcuts preferences, select View from the lower pop-up menu and assign a shortcut to Snapping Manager. Try these shortcuts:

  • (Mac) ctrl+shift+cmd+S
  • (Win) ctrl+alt+S

Now you can open the manager without having to move the pointer at all. Change its settings, and then press Esc to continue your work.

Quickly identify special characters

For working with text in Affinity Publisher, product expert Emily Goater recommends using a shortcut to toggle the visibility of special characters.

In Keyboard shortcuts preferences, select Text from the lower pop-up menu, and try this key combo for Show Special Characters:

  • (Mac) ctrl+shift+S
  • (Win) alt+shift+S

The time-saving is just a few seconds each time you need to show and then hide special characters, but it’ll save you—or wordsmiths on your team—a lot more in the long run.

Get to glyphs faster

When a document makes use of several glyphs you can’t easily type, it’s helpful to have a quicker route to the Glyph Browser than selecting it from View > Studio.

You could dock the browser in a studio to keep it to hand, but that constrains its width—perhaps uncomfortably so if you’ve set it to present glyphs at a large size.

So, try the following assignments. Our recommendations are similar to what displays each platform’s system-wide emoji viewer, in the hope, it’ll help you remember both shortcuts.

  • (Mac) ctrl+shift+cmd+space
  • (Win) ctrl+alt+.

Selectively hide parts of the interface

Our remaining shortcuts deal with freeing up space for the document view by toggling the visibility of large parts of the user interface.

All three shortcuts use the same combination of modifier keys, along with an arrow key that represents an interface element’s relative position.

Keyboard shortcuts are the best way to quickly toggle visibility of select parts of the Affinity user interface, which might reduce the need to scroll when checking text.

Show or hide a studio

Pressing the Tab key hides all of the Affinity user interface, and pressing it again brings everything back. Though this is good for focusing solely on a document, it’s often too heavy-handed.

In Affinity Publisher, for example, you may need to refer to warnings on the Preflight Panel, or search results on the Find and Replace Panel. In this case, you can select View > Studio and then Show Left Studio or Show Right Studio to hide only the panels you don’t need.

For View > Studio > Show Left Studio:

  • (Mac) ctrl+opt+shift+cmd+left arrow
  • (Win) ctrl+shift+left arrow

For view > Studio > Show Right Studio:

  • (Mac) ctrl+opt+shift+cmd+right arrow
  • (Win) ctrl+shift+right arrow

Something similar for the toolbar

Maybe it’s additional vertical space that you need, especially if you’re working on a laptop.

A shortcut is assigned to View > Show Toolbar by default. Consider replacing it with a similar shortcut to those you’ve set to toggle studio visibility, such as:

  • (Mac) ctrl+opt+shift+cmd+up arrow
  • (Win) ctrl+shift+up arrow

Technical author
Alan is part of our technical authoring team and joined us from the world of magazines (MacUser), where he wrote up software techniques and worked on pioneering interactive digital editions. When he’s not neck-deep in page layouts, layer masks and adjustment layers, you’ll often find him digging through second-hand records for interesting sleeve artwork or gazing in wonderment at the graphical variety of Japanese video games.
Credits & Footnotes

Power and precision lettering by Mario de Meyer

House illustration by Maciek Blaźniak

Brochure design by Jade Lambert, Heyl Interiors